Close to a mile above sea level is where the wheels fell off for the Vandals. Losing games in close fashion must have worn Idaho down, because two nights after losing on the last possession the Vandals got methodically worked off the court last Saturday, falling 74-58 to the Pioneers.
There’s not a lot to say about the performance, other than the fact a better team did what a better team is supposed to do at home. The Pioneers improved to 11-2 in WAC play, with those 11 wins coming in their last 12 games.
The turnover problem has once again crept back in to the picture, with Idaho giving Denver 22 points off of 16 turnovers. The issue earlier in the conference schedule with the Vandals was giving opponents much more shot attempts due to those turnovers.
On Saturday night, while a problem, the turnovers hardly mattered since Denver sank 56 percent from the field despite missing on 14 3-point attempts.
The loss drops Idaho to 5-8 in conference play, having dropped eight of the last 11 games. Thanks to losses from San Jose State and Texas State the Vandals still claim No. 6 in the conference, a position they’d like to keep in order to avoid playing in the first round of the conference tournament.
Home games, and they will be premium for Idaho if it hopes to stay in the middle of the conference standings.
Texas-Arlington comes into the Cowan Spectrum having won four of the last five since losing to Idaho 77-64 on Jan. 19 in Arlington.
Then, pending the result in Seattle on Thursday, La. Tech brings its undefeated record to Moscow.
The solace would come from the fact Idaho played both of these teams well on the road, losing to La. Tech in the final minute and decisively beating Texas-Arlington.
Mike McChristian- 3 stars
McChristian has been playing relatively well since being utilized as more than just a point guard, but doesn’t provide a lot when he’s thrust in to the starting line-up in the role of a point guard. He didn’t turn the ball over, but didn’t have an assist either. He did tie a career high with 14 points but it was on 6-of-13 shooting.
Mansa Habeeb- 2 stars
In his third consecutive start Habeeb provided some offensive efficiency, but his best role might be coming off the bench and providing offensive energy. But to his credit he had the second best offensive night with his efficiency.
Wendell Faines- 2 stars
The senior didn’t do much in his third consecutive start. Two points in 17 minutes of action meant a pretty quiet night for him.
Kyle Barone- 2 stars
Can somebody tell me why Kyle Barone only had two shot attempts? To Denver’s credit, the Pioneers have very athletic big men and are one of the best defensive teams in the country. Their methodical style tends to take teams out of their offensive rhythm, and Idaho was just the latest victim to this.
Connor Hill- 2 stars
The maturation of the sophomore from Post Falls is a Silverwood roller coaster ride. There’s very little in-between on the types of nights he has, he’s either on or he’s not. The methodical pace of the game didn’t give him very many good looks and he went 1-of-3 from 3-point land.
Bench- 3 stars
If I were to make an educated guess I’d say Stephen Madison saw his last game as a member of Idaho’s bench. He came off the bench to score 14 and hit 6-of-9 from the field. Madison struggled the last two games with the change in roles, but he may have forced Verlin’s hand to put him back in the starting line-up. He was benched because Verlin wanted to start all of his seniors, but after Saturday’s game the sense of urgency must have gone away.
Sean Kramer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org